White-Green Delirium at Warsaw

by Simon Nielsen on 03 November 2016, Thursday

Simon Nielsen

White-Green Delirium at Warsaw


If you can't win no matter what you play, might as well just put Consulate Skygate in your deck, right?


Consulate Skygate

After the Pro Tour and the following Grand Prix it was clear that the format has devolved into 2 main decks, Black-Green Delirium and White-Blue Flash. Vehicles takes the 3rd spot with both Mardu and straight Red-White options, but these are not nearly as popular. After that we only have minor decks making an appearance.

So this looks like a fairly easy metagame to process. Black-Green is favored against White-Blue, but not by a landslide. The match-up should get closer and closer to even as the format progresses and the White-Blue players learn more and more about their match-up.


The problem is that it's very hard to position yourself in this metagame. You can easily beat Black-Green by going over the top of them, like Marvel, or go way under like RB aggro, but both of those strategies are weak to the solid interaction from White-Blue.




The Solution?

So it seemed to me like a Black-Green list tuned for the mirror was the place to be. I tried some leagues with the popular decks to get a feel for the format, like White-Blue, Black-Green and Mardu Vehicles. I tried some brews that I thought might be well positioned. I tried some other decks, that did well in the Grand Prix.

And I just. Kept. Losing.

I think I played 17 Leagues on Magic Online in preparation for Warsaw, and I didn't go 4-1 or better a single time. Usually I 4-1 almost half my Leagues, but this time I would frequently go 2-3 with good decks.


You've got to understand that everyone has these losing streaks sometimes. I don't think I tried my best and left wins on the table both because of my deck choices and my plays in the matches. But some of it is also just running bad in multiple events.

It can be hard to pick yourself up from a losing streak. You feel like every deck in the format is bad, because you can't win with any of them. Obviously not every deck can be bad because they are only compared to each other. At this point you have to rely on what other people around you think. What makes sense to be the best deck in the format? There's no shame in just picking up the most popular deck and going with it. Ask your friends what they they think about the format and how their testing has gone.




The Solution???

My Swiss friend Julian Flury messaged me the week before GP Warsaw that he thought he broke the format. To be fair, he says that all the time, but this time he really meant it. To be fair, he also says that all the time, but his deck looked really interesting.


Descend upon the Sinful Thalia's Lancers

It was White-Green Delirium. Most of the Delirium package is Green anyway, so the second color doesn't have to be Black. With White you get to play Descend upon the Sinful which is the best sweeper in the format, and you have Thalia's Lancers to find both Ishkanah, Grafwidow and Emrakul, the Promised End, as well as the angel package of Gisela, Bruna and Linvala.


Gisela, the Broken Blade Bruna, the Fading Light Linvala, the Preserver


You also get Gideon, Ally of Zendikar which can sometimes win games on its own and has a neat interaction with Ishkanah where you ultimate it to get a Planeswalker into the graveyard and then play Ishkanah who has 4 bodies to benefit from the Emblem.


Consulate Skygate Smuggler's Copter


The problem is that the early game removal in White-Green is not very good, but Julian found Consulate Skygate to be a perfect fit to combat Smuggler's Copter as well as providing multiple card types of its own.




Giving White-Green Delirium a Trial Run

Obviously my first endeavor with the deck was an easy 0-3.



But since I couldn't win with anything, that didn't really matter. Julian had a great record with the deck, and the deck was good in theory, so I made sure to acquire all the cards for it. I also tried to bring the cards for Black-Green, but I didn't really put much effort to it. I think it's a really good idea to have a back-up deck ready when you plan to bring a brew that might still need some work. You never know if you are going to figure out that the deck is actually unplayble during the last day of testing.


Grim Flayer Liliana, the Last Hope


It was one of my biggest mistakes for this tournament that I didn't make sure to have all the cards for Black-Green with me as well.

Once I arrived in Warsaw, I played some more with the deck and I realized that the deck in its current configuration was still way too clunky to bring to the event. Even though White-Blue was supposedly a good match-up, I just kept losing to Gideon. And the high curve also resulted in some losses against other decks, because White-Green just wasn't functional.

On Friday, the day before the Grand Prix, I really wanted to work on the deck and tune it to a point where I liked it. Julian's friend, Vince, who wasn't even going to play the deck, suggested that I just cut all the angels and Thalia's Lancers from the maindeck in order to streamline the deck. I could still have those in the sideboard as a kind of transformational sideboard plan.

That... was the push I needed.


What most players do when they tune a deck is just to fiddle with the numbers or change some sideboard cards. What you really need to do most of the time with an untuned brew like this is to take a step back and consider how you can change the entire face of the deck. Sometimes that will take the input of somebody who didn't work on the deck, but might have some fresh thoughts on which parts of the deck work and which don't.

This is the list I played at Grand Prix Warsaw:




Simon's 11

Yes, this is 11 creatures in the sideboard.


That's completely normal, right?


It does allow you to change your gameplan. Harnessed Lightning is pretty bad against the maindeck, but is the opponent supposed to board it out when you might bring in Gisela?

Also, about these Consulate Skygates that stick out like a sore thumb. I received a lot of flack for these throughout the weekend and had to defend them left and right so I think I've got the hang of it. You could even say that I've got the hangar of it, but I won't say that.


Spell Queller

This is an interactive card that you can play proactively which is quite important against Smuggler's Copter and Spell Queller. The problem with leaving up removal for the chopper is that they can just not crew it and then you might be stuck in an awkward spot. Also, it's usually easy to defeat a 0 power wall by just going around it, but Smuggler's Copter is kind of like -1 creature which makes it harder to go around the gate. Also, if they just spend their turn to kill it, your are still happy because you are likely close to Delirium.

Friday night Julian messaged me that this approach was wrong and I would need to cut some 2 mana interaction to fit the Thalia's Lancers and Brisela package back into the deck, otherwise I would just lose the late game to White-Blue. But I had just made the exact opposite changes to the deck to make sure I didn't lose the early game to White-Blue and aggressive decks.


At this point I realized that the deck was just internally flawed, as it didn't have the tools to make sure to survive early and win the lategame. If you look at Black-Green, a card like Liliana, the Last Hope and even Grim Flayer has applications early, but also does something lategame. The same flexibility doesn't exactly apply to Bruna, the Fading Light and Consulate Skygate.




Simon is Stuck

But as I mentioned earlier, I didn't make sure that I had the Grim Flayers and Liliana, the Last Hope I would need to switch to Black-Green Delirium which I was now sure was the best choice for the weekend, so I just stuck with White-Green. At least I liked this version of the list.

I got some confidence boost as my tournament started 8-1 on Day 1, while beating no less than all 4 White-Blue decks I met. Even Saturday night I was still convinced that this deck was just worse than Black-Green, but at least it could hold its own. The chickens came home to roost on Sunday (as Riley Knight so elegantly expressed it) when I had an impressive 1-5 score to end my tournament at 9-6, outside of the range of even a lowly Pro Point.

I was not getting as lucky on Sunday as I did Saturday and a lot of the weaknesses of the deck shone through.




In Conclusion


I am thoroughly convinced that it is correct to play Consulate Skygate in this deck. I also think that this is the reason not play the deck. Over the past year I've learned the value of just playing a good, functional deck. The need for Consulate Skygate is not a sign of a good deck, as it is just not flexible.

The other thing, which is a lesson I just learned this weekend, is that there is an opportunity cost to your deck choice. White-Green is favored against Black-Green, as it has more ways to go over the Top ( mostly in the board) as well as exile removal that prevents Black-Green from reviving their important cards. White-Green is also definitely a favourite against White-Blue, but I don't think it's as favored as Black-Green is in the match-up.

So instead of playing all these powerful but also somewhat cute effects, like Descend upon the Sinful and Gisela, the Broken Blade, you could have just jammed Grim Flayers and Liliana, the Last Hope into your deck and just play the best deck in the format. You are just going to be better positioned against random decks if your deck is flexible enough to both apply pressure and have some sort of edge in the later stages of the game.

I will add this to my already growing baggage of deck choice theory (maybe I should write a piece about all these lessons sometime soon?):

Whenever you consider to play a brew, stop and ask yourself: "Is this really worth it, when I can just sleeve up the best deck instead?"


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